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Damani Marcano
It was amazing that my first race weekend had actually come. I was about to officially be a racing driver in the Volkswagen Racing Cup in the British GT race weekend.
My dad and I arrived at the hotel late on the Thursday night before. I really wanted to get to sleep but I was just so excited about the next day it took me ages to close my eyes.
When I woke up the next morning, I was really tired from the three and a half hour drive the night before. I can only imagine how tired my dad must have been! As soon as I realised that I was going to be on track on my first race weekend the excitement completely took that away. I was so buzzing to be out there in the car for my first official Friday practice.
Jaw dropping
When I arrived at Oulton Park I wasn't even thinking about the fact that it was raining or that my first time driving the track in the dry was going to be during qualifying the next morning. I just couldn't wait to see the car! It had only been wrapped by Bossdog Graphics that week and I hadn't seen it yet. I'd only seen the designs and one sneak-peak photo of the finished car. Then I saw it. It was jaw dropping! I can't thank Bossdog enough for the amazing job they did on the car. I was probably just standing there staring at it for ages.

See more pictures in Member's Rides.
Feeling all grown up
Everyone in the team was really welcoming. The atmosphere in the awning was a really nice family atmosphere. Everyone was really encouraging. There are 7 other drivers with a wide range of experience. This is one of the best things for me because it gives me a way to progress. If you try to learn from the top drivers too soon you are trying to run before you can walk. Instead I can start by learning from the next driver up from me, hopefully working my way up the ladder.
The drivers' briefing was a lot like a karting drivers briefing except I was surrounded by adults instead of mostly kids and teenagers like me. Everyone treated me like an equal. I felt instantly more grown up. I know it sounds weird to say that but remember I'm still only 16 and at school.
Those engine problems
My Friday test was cut short by some serious engine problems. Even though I was frustrated by this I still didn't want to go back to the hotel. There were all the other classes to watch. The Volkswagen Racing Cup is part of the British GT race weekends so there were Aston Martins, Ferraris & McLarens as well as Formula 3 and Formula 4 cars to watch. They looked and sounded amazing. I also wanted to watch my team mates to see what I could learn from them on track.
I needed an engine change on Friday which gave me 40kg of ballast as a penalty. My engine problems lasted all weekend (which you can read all about here). I still managed to do a lot better than everyone expected. My first dry session ended up being in race 1 after everyone else had 20 minutes of practice during the qualifying session. Even with the 40kg of ballast I was faster than a few other drivers and my pace was similar to drivers as high as 15th (out of 28). When I had the car underneath me I was able to progress very quickly and I was very happy with my performance over the weekend.
Cars & Stars
One of the amazing things of the British GT race weekends is you get to see all of the cars you normally idolise on the internet. In the car park was a display of super cars from rare & exclusive Lamborghinis & Ferraris to vintage cars like the De Tomaso Pantera. Randomly, in the paddock was a Bugatti Veyron. Then there's the British GT cars themselves. From Ferrari 458 GT3s to McLaren 650s GT3 cars and many more with the most insane racing bodywork.
The thing that blew me away the most was how everyone treated me. It was surreal. Before the weekend even started I was sent a custom #20 @DKMRacing Team HARD hat by Red Core Urban Wear with more clothing on its way. During the weekend photographers were pointing their cameras at me all day taking my picture. Racing fans were constantly taking photos of the car and me.

One young boy was having his photo taken with the car and Dwayne, one of my engineers, asked if he wanted to meet the driver. Dwayne called me over and the young boy's parents were shocked. "You're the driver?!" they said. They asked Dwayne how old I was and when he said 16 they were shocked. It was quite funny because every time someone found out I was the driver it was like they didn't believe it. People kept saying "how old are you again?!"
I've never experienced anything like it before. The whole experience of the paddock at a car race weekend is completely different to karting. At a kart race weekend you show up, get on with your racing and go home. At Oulton Park I felt like a mini-celebrity, like a proper racing driver. It was unreal! It was quite nice at first but then it was a bit distracting sometimes. I can't imagine what it's like for racing drivers who are really famous.
Excited, Encouraged & Positive
After the weekend was over and we were heading home I couldn't stop thinking about everything that happened. I was thinking about how I could improve for next time. I was thinking about how awesome it was when I had the car working at its best underneath me. I said before that I was going into the weekend with no expectations but if I did have any it would have been based on a 16 year old who has had only a few hours in a car. I was really pleased that I was able to show that my pace was better than that and get my first overtakes. I'm really excited to see how that improves over the season.
Story continues below...

Without a doubt, the time I spent on the simulators at the
and at definitely gave me a head-start. But it's different when you are actually flying around a corner at nearly 100mph with a solid wall and a season ending repair bill waiting for you if you make a mistake. 
With all the problems of the weekend I probably should have felt deflated. But I wasn't. Team HARD did such an amazing job trying to get to the bottom of the issues and out of 8 cars there were only a couple of us who had problems. These cars aren't production cars. They were once but when you read the specs on them you realise how little is left of the original car.
The team worked so hard over the whole weekend and we all stayed positive right until the end of the day on Monday. Now I'm going to take these positive feelings forward to my next race weekend at Rockingham. Hopefully I'll have a chance to see what I can really do.
You can watch highlights of rounds 1,2 & 3 of the 2015 Volkswagen Racing Cup on Motors TV from 18th April to 23rd April and again on Channel 4 on 26th April. Check your preferred TV Guide for broadcast times. Rounds 4, 5 & 6 at Rockingham will be shown as part of the live coverage of the British GT Championships on Motors TV on the weekend of 2nd - 3rd May.
You can follow Damani’s journey here on VWROC via his regular monthly column. Day to day, keep up to date via Twitter (@DKMRacing), Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. To help keep Damani on the grid, you can back him via his crowd funding campaign and via his Patreon page.

Above photo and on-track photo by Jakob Ebrey courtesy of the Volkswagen Racing Cup.

Volkswagen is celebrating 60 years of sales in the United States by launching four new Beetle Concepts at the 2015 New York International Auto Show, which begins today.
The legendary Beetle, which first broke on to US shores back in 1955 has been a symbol of change and revolution, encapsulating such scenes as Woodstock, the California surf scene, and a rather special Disney series of films.
Amongst the concepts being unveiled today is the Beetle R-Line Concept. I used the photos in today's April Fool spoof, but it is actually a genuine VW concept model. Yes, it might have 220PS, not the 500 I mentioned in the article, but I think the Beetle R-Line Concept looks genuinely interesting, especially the rear spoiler.
Here's some more on info each of the new Beetle Concepts...
Blue is the theme for the Beetle Cabriolet Denim concept. In ‘Stonewashed Blue Metallic’ body colour with soft top in dark blue with a special fabric texture, this car clearly calls to mind the world’s most popular trousers: jeans. The first ‘Jeans Bug’ made its debut in the mid-1970s, adopting the denim theme. In the 1980s and 1990s, other ‘jeans’ special Beetle models followed.
Next up is the Beetle Wave concept in striking ‘Habanero Orange Metallic’ which reflects the American spirit on the East and West coast beaches of the USA. This spirit is also expressed in the convertible's interior. Fabric patterns from the 1950s and 60s influence the design of the centre seat panels, and there is a genuine wood dashpad designed in traditional surfboard style.
Those looking for something very special will find the Beetle Pink Edition is the ideal choice. It is a car for style-conscious people around the globe. Pink accessories can be found among the most expensive labels in Manhattan and other great cities of the world. Only the car was lacking: now Volkswagen is satisfying this need with a coupé in ‘Fuschine Metallic’, the bright pink body colour contrasting with exterior and interior elements in black, chrome and aluminium look.
The Beetle R-Line Concept stands for automotive sportiness. It is powered by a 2.0-litre TSI engine (European version) that produces 220 PS of power and suits the car’s sporty exterior look. Painted in ‘Oryx White Pearl Effect’, this car impresses with its independent bumpers and wrap-around body panelling in high-gloss black, a black diffuser and a large rear spoiler. The car's overall sporty impression continues inside with sport bucket seats and leather-carbon look highlights.






It’s the news we’ve all been waiting for, the long awaiting rumour mill surrounding the R400/R420 project can finally be put to bed.
Here it is!! But not as a Golf as expected, as a Beetle. That’s right, the R400 concept we’ve seen to date was merely a Trojan-Horse style distraction…
What more appropriate way of celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 33bhp people’s car reaching America could there be than by launching a power-crazed special with a huge price tag? Volkswagen seem to agree, and they’ve done just that.
Power crazed? Well yes. Volkswagen has blown the 400bhp figure out of the window. The Beetle R500 uses an up-rated version of the 3.0 litre V6 petrol found in models such as the US version of the Touareg, now heavily turbocharged to boost power from the standard 280bhp output to a truly staggering 496bhp.
Apparently it’s a snug fit… Dr Shöhorn Wielder commented, “Yes, we had to do away with some key components such as ze air conditioning to make the engine fit, but this helps save weight, so it has an advantageâ€
All that power will be put on the road using the latest 4-MOTION system, with clever differentials front and rear to help keep those driving lines tight. People will no doubt ask though whether having this big V6 out front will upset the delicate balance of the MQB chassis, but Recht Hander, head of chassis dynamics declared “with 500bhp available, the handling is interestingâ€.
It’ll be a handful in a straight line too, with an addition that is sure to impress ‘Fast and the Furious’ fans. The ‘Watch tHis, Instant Power System’ (WHIPS) will via a steering wheel mounted button allow the R500 to over-boost momentarily delivering absolutely savage overtaking power.
All of this power does have its downsides… the R500 is loud, very loud. Thankfully, Volkswagen has fitted the Beetle R500 with a ‘Pedestrian Loudness Optimisation Pressure System’ (PLOPS). This reduces the pressure in the rear section of the exhaust via a series of valves, making the R500 much quieter around town. Head of acoustics Dr Zonic Boum declared the new PLOPS system “a revelation in pedestrian satisfactionâ€.
That’s pretty much all the information we have for now, but one thing is for sure, this is bound to cause a stir.

Damani Marcano
Like most teenage boys I spend too much time thinking about cars, counting the days until I’m old enough to have my driving license and be able to afford my very own car. Even though I’m too young for a driving license, I’m just old enough for a senior racing license which is handy when you are about to make your car racing debut in the 2015 Volkswagen Racing Cup.
The Volkswagen Racing Cup is a national series officially backed by Volkswagen and is part of the British GT Championship weekends. It is televised on Motors TV with a dedicated recorded show with most of the race weekends shown live as part of the British GT Championships live coverage. This isn’t a junior championship. It is a senior race series and I’ll be on track with experienced drivers in their 20s, 30s and even 40s. I am told that I am going to be the youngest driver on the grid!
It seems crazy that I am about to be in such a high-level of racing with so little experience! I’ve only had two years of karting and no experience in cars. I’ve barely had a few hours practice behind the wheel of any car and I am going to be on track with top drivers and former champions with years or decades of racing behind them!
People ask how all this happened. It’s kind of a long story (you can read a longer version of the story here and another version of the story there) but the short version is that I was like most kids. Completely lost with no idea of what I wanted to do with my life. School didn’t make any sense and I just didn’t get the point of a lot of my lessons. Then I found out that I had a bit of talent for driving a kart and I absolutely loved it. Suddenly everything made sense. I had a reason for everything.
Teams want educated drivers
Top teams don’t just want a fast driver. They want educated drivers because a part of your job is helping engineers develop the car. Another part of your job is writing articles like this or speaking with the media.
You have to be articulate, able to write well (but like all writers I get help from an editor – thanks Dad), be able to understand what set-up changes will do to the car’s performance, be able to understand and analyze data as well as being able to adjust things like brake balance on the fly. You even need to be able to draw reasonably well when making your session notes showing sketches of a corner and the line through it.
The perfect driver would be talented behind the wheel, a public speaker, multi-lingual (to be more attractive to international teams), a journalist, an actor, an engineer, a physicist, an artist and an athlete. I have never worked so hard at school as I do today, now that all this makes sense to me. Most days now I start school at 8am and stay behind to do coursework until 6:30 or even 7pm. I really learned how important all of these things are from my short time in karting.
I’ve not done this alone
My two years in karting were tough. When I started aged 14, I was racing with people my age who already had up to 7 years experience. This really showed me how much I had to learn on the track and that talent was only a tiny part of getting good at anything. It takes time and hard work!

I was very lucky to have some amazing people to help me through these two years. Jason Robinson, former chairman of the Hoddesdon Kart Club and now a family friend; Lee Murray, owner of MLC Motorsport; my mechanics and instructors including Josh Hatton, Chris Appleby and Andrew Rees-Reynolds; my driver coach Terence Dove and my personal trainer Gary Johnson – all believed in me and have done much more than we could have ever have afforded to pay for. Most of all I owe all of this to my dad.
I was down on budget and on experience and had to work hard to make up for it. I did ok though. In my first season I reached 3rd in the Hoddesdon Kart Club Championship at Rye House, where Lewis Hamilton began. I learned a lot off the track too, learning how to market myself. I started a YouTube channel with my dad’s help and we started making videos about the things I did in between race weekends. It worked and I was spotted by Tony Gilham of Team HARD.

Tony saw how I had progressed on track even though I didn’t have as much experience as a lot of others and they saw how comfortable I was in front of a camera. Tony Gilham, owner of Team HARD is a former VW Racing Cup champion and a BTCC and Porsche racing driver. He told me he saw someone who was determined and was as comfortable behind the wheel as they were in front of the camera. This kind of driver is what people in motorsport call “the complete packageâ€.
The next thing I know, I’m the youngest ever driver to be signed to the team, not to mention also part-sponsored by them, and was well on my way to getting my senior National B racing license and going for my first test in the race car.
Story continues below...

The Car
And what a car! Team HARD’s race car is a VW Golf GTi R Cup Car based on a Mk5 shell with a Mk6 front (for looks and aero) running a 2.0L TSi engine producing 250bhp. It rides on racing slicks with Vagbremtechnic brakes to slow it down. With me in the car it weighs in at just over 1200kg. The shell is stripped back to bare metal and the whole car is built from scratch by Team HARD’s engineers with a wider track and touring-car style wide-body with the tyres nearly touching the arches. It’s practically a touring car except with a bit less power and it has to run an original gear casing with H-pattern linkages. Team HARD also build road cars so I now know exactly what I want my first car to be!
Not a lot of cars on the road can come close to it. I’ve been out in it three times now (only on track days) and it was noticeably quicker than some Porsches, M3s, R35 GTRs and many other fast road cars on track.

Good times, HARD times
If it wasn’t for Tony and Team HARD’s sponsorship there is no way we would be able to afford to do this, despite everything my dad has given up (which is basically everything). Even paying for the difference while we try to find more sponsors is a huge challenge. But my dad said we couldn’t afford to miss this opportunity, no matter what it takes!
We’ve made it this far though. Now there’s only a short time until my first official test-day and races with other VW Racing Cup drivers. That’s when I will really find out how much I have to learn.
Still lots to learn
By my first race I’ll have maybe 6 hours in my car and about 2 or 3 hours in any car before that. I’ll be on track with drivers with hundreds or even thousands of hours behind the wheel. The only realistic expectation I can have this season is of myself. That I put in 100%, learn as much as I can as fast as I can and focus on making the best progress possible in my abilities over the season.
I really can’t wait! Even though I know this season is mostly to learn the circuits and subtleties of tin-top racing, while on track with some incredibly experienced drivers, the racer in me will still be pushing like I’m there for the win! I can’t help it. It’s who I am and why I know that all I want to be is a racing driver!
Damani has his first race on 4th April 2015 at Oulton Park. You can follow Damani’s journey here on VWROC via his regular monthly column. Day to day, keep up to date via Twitter (@DKMRacing), Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. To help keep Damani on the grid, you can back him via his crowd funding campaign and via his Patreon page. Watch out for more exclusive posts from Damani in this column, in the forums and look out for full specs on his car coming soon in Members Rides.

So what do we have here?
Well, this isn’t an all-new car. The Polo GTI in Mk5 form has been with us since 2011, but given how much Volkswagen have changed on this, the facelift version, it may as well be all-new.
Gone is the 1.4TSI engine that was both supercharged and turbocharged, we now have a much more grown up 1.8TSI motor with 192PS, 12 more than the old car had. It serves up 236lb- ft of toque too, a huge gain on the 180lb ft the old engine offered. Gone too is the DSG gearbox, yes you can still spec it, but a six-speed manual now comes as standard.
So the big question then, does this new Polo live up to its name, is it a proper GTI?
Well it’s quick enough… 0-62mph is dealt with in 6.7 seconds, and the Polo will tramp on to a top speed of 146mph. Off the line it doesn’t actually feel that fast, probably down to the slightly portly 1272kg kerb weight, but once it’s on the move, it’s a very rapid little car with acceleration from 40mph hardly relenting as it approaches three figures.
It’s great as well when the road gets twisty. The standard fit XDS+ front differential helps to keep understeer and wheel spin to a minimum, meaning you can pitch the Polo into a corner with extreme confidence. The steering is light and doesn’t give much feedback, but with so much grip on offer, it’s very easy to jump into this car and drive it quickly, right from the off.
Despite the kerb weight, it doesn’t feel like a heavy car to drive. It changes direction quickly and with a high level of control, and it seems to ‘skip’ down the road. Whereas my Golf R feels sure-footed and planted, the Polo feels so much cheekier, like it’s ready to have fun at any time.
It will let you have fun too… One press of the traction button disables the ASR which mainly results in a lot more wheel spin, especially when pulling away from junctions. Press and hold the traction button and not only is the ASR disabled, but the ESC is also put into Sport Mode (but not actually disabled), and with the ESC in Sport you can have a lot of fun. Approach a corner fast, flick the steering and back-off the throttle and the Polo GTI will thrill you with a big helping of lift-off over steer. It’s a very rewarding chassis, if set up slightly on the safer side of fun, but 99% of the time, that is in truth where you want it to be.
What about that new engine then? Well, honestly, it is a masterpiece. This is the engine the Polo GTI should have had back in 2011. It manages to pull off a great trick in that it doesn’t feel turbocharged. Traditionally, turbo engines deliver a massive slug of power after a moment of lag, and then run out of puff higher up the rev range. The 1.8TSI unit in this Polo pulls smoothly all through the rev range with no noticeable peaks and troughs, and it’ll keenly chase on right up to the rev limiter. It sounds pretty good too, although if I’m being picky, I think it could do with a slightly rortier exhaust note, the cabin on the Polo is so well insulated you can barely hear the twin tail pipes.
Inside, it’s unmistakably a GTI. The tartan cloth seats offer great support and really look the part harking back to the original Mk1 Golf, and the leather trimmed GTI steering wheel with its red stitching feels like an extremely classy fixture. The rest of the interior is very Volkswagen, simple, clear and well crafted, with some nice touches.
The Polo GTI doesn’t come with overwhelming levels of standard kit, but it’s got everything you need. There’s manual air conditioning, a colour centre touch screen with DAB radio, Bluetooth, steering wheel controls for the stereo and on board computer, and the centre console houses a USB socket for connecting your phone or music device. The standard fit LED headlamps are great at night, and help inspire confidence on dark country lanes.
Of course, you can take to the options list and add in climate control, cruise control, sat nav, folding mirrors, a sun roof, and just about anything else you fancy. There’s a Sport Performance Kit too which includes Dynamic Chassis Control at £245, but in reality, the standard setup is fine, so save your £245 for a few tanks full of petrol. If you’re going to spec the 7-speed DSG gearbox though, you will also need the Sport Kit, as this liberates the full 236lb-ft of torque from the engine, otherwise DSG cars have to make do with 184lb-ft.
Personally, aside from the Winter Pack at £360 (which includes heated seats) I don’t think I would add anything… this is a purists GTI, it is best enjoyed straight up, as it comes.
Now then, time to get serious. During the five days I had this car for, I received a number of messages from car folk asking the big question... “Is it the new MK1 GTI?â€
Well, no, it’s not. The truth being that as good as this Polo GTI is, no modern cars with power steering, huge levels of safety kit affecting kerb weights, and modern emissions regulations to meet will get close to those 80s hatch backs in terms of raw feel.
What this Polo GTI does show though is that the old GTI formula still works. 1.8 litre engine, compact dimensions, simple manual gearbox, focus on driving appeal rather than gadgets, and the end result can’t fail.
At the end of my five days, I was sad to see the Polo go.
I had let it get under my skin… it is a proper GTI.





We'd like to thank Peter Cooper Volkswagen for the loan of their Polo GTI demonstrator for our road test, and in particular Andy Gray for his help.
Peter Cooper Volkswagen are an independently-owned group of Volkswagen dealerships serving the South Coast, they are located in Southampton, Portsmouth, Hedge End and Chichester.
You can find out more, and contact your nearest Peter Cooper dealership through their website: http://www.petercoopergroup.co.uk/


VW Driver Golf R special

By admin, in Articles,

IT IS NOT OFTEN that we devote so much space in one issue to a specific model within the VW range, but we’ve made an exception for the Golf 7R, such is the current level of interest in this latest ‘hot hatch’.
I can still clearly remember when the previous Golf R came out, the Mk 6, back in late 2009, with a mere four-cylinder 2.0 turbo engine replacing the previous 3.2 V6, but following the first road test we realised that it was not only faster but more fuel-efficient, it handled better without the weight of that V6 hanging out front, and it was technically a much better car all round.
And now we have the new 7R, so much better than the 6R because it is based on the MQB chassis. As many owners – some featured in our special issue – will attest, it really is an amazing all-rounder; not only a comfortable, practical family hack but also capable of blowing away all but the most severe of supercars. And, if it isn’t quite good enough in standard form, then there are already a great many very effective performance upgrades available, as the features in our special issue will show.
AS WELL AS this special issue of the monthly magazine, and the digital version with extra pictorial content, we’ve also compiled all our previous articles on the Golf 6R and 7R into a digital portfolio that you can download from www.pocketmags.com With 135 pages of exclusive Golf R features, it’s well worth a look!
Neil Birkitt
Editor, Volkswagen Driver magazine

Traditionally announced on the eve of the Geneva Motor Show Press Day, the European Car of the Year panel last night announced the new Volkswagen Passat as their champion.
The European Car of the Year jury panel is formed of motoring journalists from a host of different European countries, and every year they score the most innovative and outstanding new car to go on sale in the 12 months preceding the date of the title.
The Passat received a total of 340 points, securing it the win by some margin over the second placed Citroën C4 Cactus which scored 248 points.
The seven nominees and their scoring can be found below:
Volkswagen Passat (340 points) - Winner
Citroën C4 Cactus (248 points)
Mercedes-Benz C-Class (221 points)
Ford Mondeo (203 points)
Nissan Qashqai (160 points)
BMW 2-Series Active Tourer (154 points)
Renault Twingo (124 points)

Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Member of the Board of Management Volkswagen Brand for the Development Division, received the award for the new Passat: “We are delighted by the honour of “Car of the Year 2015â€. This accolade has a very special significance for us because it is awarded by independent international trade journalists. In addition, the honour is known to have a high standing for our customers.â€



Not just another concept car to be ignored, this is an important showing for Volkswagen as the Sport Coupé GTE represents what Volkswagen are deeming a 'new design era', this means the styling cues you see here will likely filter across the range on future models.
Lucky it's a good looking car then, well in my eyes at least, the way the grille bars merge seamlessly into the LED headlights on this concept car is a nice detail. But enough on the styling, you can make your own minds up on that, more about the car.
Well this is a large four-seat, four-door coupé, designed to sit in the range above the Passat CC, but below the Phaeton. The BMW 6-Series Gran Coupé would be a comparable size and model.
As the GTE name suggests, this car is equipped with a plug-in hybrid drive train consisting of a petrol 3.0 litre V6 TSI engine and two electric motors. Performance figures are haven't been officially published, but 374bhp is being quoted, delivered through an innovative four wheel drive system which uses an electric prop shaft.
The Sports Coupé Concept GTE features, as you would expect, all the latest technology available. There's a 10.1 inch central touch screen, and a 12.3 inch tablet style device for the heating and ventilation controls.
I really like the look of this car, and whilst it might not appeal to most of us R owners, it shows us how Volkswagen styling is likely to develop over the coming years.



The virtual order books opened online at 12:01 a.m. January 8, and all of the cars were spoken for by 10:30 a.m.
VW confirmed the news on Twitter and has also set up a waiting list—so if you weren't one of the fast and the lucky who managed to reserve a Golf R, it's possible you could still get one if an order falls through.
The first 500 2015 Golf R units will be identical, with Lapiz Blue Metallic paint (pictured), 19-inch Cadiz-style alloy wheels, and the highest level of equipment: they will all come with DCC (dynamic chassis control), navigation, a six-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission (a manual will be offered at a later date), and a Fender premium audio system.
Each car in that first batch will also come with an individually-numbered accessories kit consisting of an R-badged watch, a carbon fiber and stainless steel keychain, and a certificate matching the car's VIN....Nice touch!!

The new RS3 has been a hot topic in the news in recent months, and with order books officially opening next month, Audi has finally confirmed the question that everyone has been wanting to know... Pricing in the UK will start at £39,950.
It's an interesting pricing point, and with a similarly specified Golf R costing a touch over £35k (DSG with Nappa Leather and 19" Pretorias), there isn't a great deal between them.
In case you're not up to date with RS3 news, it will wade into battle with a 2.5 litre five-cylinder turbocharged engine with 367hp and 343lb ft of torque. The seven-speed dual clutch S-Tronic gearbox is standard. For comparison, that is 70hp and 63lb ft up on the Golf R. It also has an extra cylinder, and arguably a more 'performance focused' specification and options list.
Thanks to that options list, very few customers will actually part with £39,950 for an RS3. Prices on options have yet to be released, but with sports exhaust systems, carbon-ceramic brakes (a first in this market segment), and of course the standard plethora of MMI and Navigation options being available, I'd imagine most cars will end up being much closer to the £50k mark.
With those numbers in mind, the RS3 will will win pretty much every game of Hot Hatch Top Trumps this summer, boasting the most hp, the most torque, an extra cylinder, and a higher price tag over the A45 AMG and Golf R, and it also beats the recently announced 3rd-Generation Focus RS on just about every count too. At least on paper anyway.
Statistics and numbers aside, it will be interesting to see how the cars compare out on the open road. The RS3 should in theory show everything a clean pair of heels, but it will be great to see what provides the most driver thrills.
Even if the RS3 comes out on top, it won't have it all its own way for long. AMG are readying a power upgrade and facelift for the A45, with power expected to be boosted to the 375hp mark. There is even talk of a 'Black-Series Lite' as a swansong for the model, with 400hp allegedly being attainable from its two-litre engine. That might be a couple of years off yet though.
Then of course we have the will-they-won't-they argument over whether or not Volkswagen will proceed with the R400/R420 project. If it does get the official green light, it's likely to cost around the same as the RS3, and will no doubt be the most eagerly awaited back to back comparison for many years.
Either way, the RS3 has made it's play, it's over to the competition. As the title says, let the battle for the 2015 hot hatch crown commence.